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PhD Success: Yifang Wang

Dr Yifang Wang recently completed her PhD thesis (‘Translating metaphor from both directions: a process-oriented study’) in Translation at Durham University, where she also did her MA, after a BA at Xi’an Jiaotong University in China. We caught up with her to learn more about her research and her post-PhD life.


Congratulations on your PhD! Can you tell us more about your subject? What have you been researching?

Thank you! Here is the abstract of my research:

Distinguished from conceptual metaphor, linguistic metaphor refers to metaphor in fixed linguistic form (words, phrases or sentences) of expression. (Lakoff 1993, pp. 202-203) With the development of modern technology, researchers started to investigate the translation process of linguistic metaphor from empirical approaches (e.g. Sjørup, 2013; Zheng and Xiang, 2011 etc.). However, one critical issue remains unexplored: the relationship between translation directionality and the process of linguistic metaphor translation.

To fill this gap on the language pair Chinese and English, this study is designed to investigate the impact of linguistic metaphor on cognitive effort, and whether this impact is affected by directionality. Thirty-eight novice translators performed a series of translation tasks (first language (L1): Chinese; second language (L2): English), and their performances were recorded by eye tracking, key logging and cue-based Retrospective Think Aloud devices. For objective description, four eye-key combination indicators are calculated in Generalised Linear Models to demonstrate translators’ allocation of cognitive resources, namely, Total Attentional Duration (TA duration), AU count, AU duration and pupil dilation.

The findings suggest that: for the sequential and parallel coordination of Source Text (ST) processing and Target Text (TT) processing, TT processing receives significantly more cognitive effort than ST processing and parallel processing, which partially confirms that Carl and Dragsted (2012) and Hvelplund (2011)’s views on translators’ allocation of cognitive resources are valid for the language pair English and Chinese. Furthermore, it is discovered that the qualitative data from the subjective reflection vary with the quantitative results in this study. For metaphor’s impact on cognitive effort, expression type (linguistic metaphor) can significantly affect participants’ allocation of cognitive resources in both translation directions (Sjørup, 2013; Dagut, 1987; Newmark, 1988), but the results of different indicators are not consistent. And there is also a significant difference between eye-key data and participants’ subjective self-reflections. For the translation directionality, the results partially confirm that the “translation asymmetry” (Chang, 2011) is valid on metaphor related processing: at some perspectives, the translation directionality can significantly affect the relationship between metaphor related expression types and attention-distribution pattern of translation process.

Why are you interested in this topic? What led you to pursue this area?

With the development of technology, scholars start to adopt various empirical methods to investigate the process of translation. In many cases, we can see the empirical data support and complete the traditional theoretical discussions. And I could not wait to see the very ancient topic: “metaphor translation” shines under the light of modern technology. Fortunately, metaphor translation process between Chinese and English is an area that has been scarcely investigated from empirical approaches. Furthermore, many perspectives of metaphor translation directionality are unexplored, which is seriously disproportional to the practice in the translation industry.

Launched by European Union, the famous “eye-to-it” project make the combined methods of eye-tracking, keylogging and Retrospective Think Aloud Protocols become one of the most popular empirical research method combination for translation studies. This is why I chose these combined methods for my project.

Can you us a bit more about your background?

I got my bachelor degree in one of the top universities in China, Xi’an Jiao Tong University, and determined to further my study in Durham.

How did you arrive in Durham? What brought you here?

The department of Modern languages and cultures, Durham University has a perfect reputation. Also, the supervisors are so wise and nice, they are the best supervisors and scholars a student can ask for. I will always be grateful for their kindness, patience and their great influence on me.

What did you particularly enjoy during your time in Durham?

I really enjoyed spend time with my supervisors and friends in Durham. These times are so precious.

If you did not live in Durham/in the UK before your PhD, what was the hardest thing you had to adapt to here?

I adapted very well and didn’t find anything hard to accept or inconvenient.

What are you up to now? What are your future plans?

I am planning to go back to China and become a teacher. I hope to carry on my research and hopefully I could send more students to Durham, and wish they have a wonderful and precious time as I did.

Finally, which advice would you like to give to current or future PhD students in MLAC?

Plan your time well and don’t miss out on the great talks in our department and the wonderful events in Student Union.


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